Your phone can be a personal health management system, says technology consultant – NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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Dr Dania Simpa, the CEO/Lead Consultant at Sabaoth Technologies Ltd, in this interview with SADE OGUNTOLA, looks
at how individuals can explore appropriate technology to improve their health.
How effective are fitness trackers in monitoring one’s health?
Wearable fitness trackers are advanced tools that can easily predict the sight of an infection or a seizure that is about to occur. These devices monitor a person’s heart rate while walking or running, the number of steps one takes in a day and also monitors the brain activity. These fitness trackers are very effective and it has saved people from a lot of home accidents, especially when this tracker pops out a sign. The person tries to put himself or herself in a safe environment and not dispose themselves to any harm like when crossing the road, cooking with the gas or sitting on a moving bike.
A wearable fitness tracker assists with treatments, monitors our health data and relates it to our health practitioners. It has been proven that this new technology help prevent, predict and detect illness on time and saves us from bad situations.
 
The pandemic has made us all the more aware of reading up on health-related issues. Are there vital medical equipment or gadgets that individuals must have at home to monitor their health regularly?
Since the spread of COVID-19, it has helped us understand the shift from physical appointments to a “to do yourself method” using medical equipments. The first medical equipment to be used in a home is first aid and assistant technologies but recently, some medical devices have been produced as consumer products that enable people manage their own health care more conveniently and independently.
The rate at which medical devices are being used outside formal healthcare institutions is increasing. It has been observed that more complex medical devices are found in homes to ensure healthy living. Equipment such as glucose meter, drug test, air purifier, etc., can be used in a home and it is very advisable to purchase one. The equipment can be used to support adherence to treatment regimes, encourage self care and provide patient education. Having these gadgets in a home improves the health of every family member and also reduces the cost of providing health care.
 
How can I use my phone to monitor my health?
A mobile phone has become an essential tool one cannot do without and has changed a lot since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. The sensors built in phones can also help our daily health and wellness. Making use of Google fit and other health related apps track movements in your body system. A mobile phone can be used as a meal planner. This helps you eat healthy food at the proper time. With your phone, one can Google how to know and prepare foods that are good for the body. A lady can use her phone to know when she is ovulating, and then a saliva test to be very sure. This is an alternative way to taking test for the purpose of procreation.
There are numerous health apps and their different functions in every part of our body and it is advised that a person should have these apps on their mobile phones and not focus only on the camera and social media platforms.
 
Can the phone be used for medical consultation?
The mobile phone is often criticised as having negative impact like distractions, sleep disorder or depression, but the device also has the potential to improve healthcare. A patient can improve his or her health by turning their phones into a personal health management system. There are numerous apps targeted at promoting health and it can easily be installed. This system or app encourages one to stay on track and maintain a positive attitude towards one’s health.
Getting consultations by setting up appointments is another way of using your mobile device to improve on your health. This reminds a person to prepare for meetings on time and take medications at the scheduled time. Making use of your timer and knowing when to do basic things at the right time can help a person improve on his or her health. A timer keeps you on track, maintains good time management and helps you stay focused.
Inasmuch as a mobile phone has negative influence on humans, it is left for us to make use of the device wisely and use it as a tool to maintain good health. There are many apps today that can connect you to a doctor or any health official as the case may be.
 
According to a study, integrating a mobile health app with ongoing medical care can significantly improve the health of patients with hypertension. How true is this?
Hypertension is a serious medical condition that has led many to premature death across the globe. It is a common condition. High blood pressure can be managed when patients limit their intake of alcohol, perform regular physical activity, quit smoking, work together with a doctor and lots more. A patient who is suffering from hypertension can use a mobile device to learn and get solutions. A doctor can prescribe medications and maintain regular appointments with his patient and also encourage his patient to adhere to electronic health interventions to provide a more flexible platform for healthcare.
Studies from groups in hypertension and other diseases have shown improved health outcomes.
 
How can our health system tap into the benefit of technology for improved healthcare?
More and more doctors are offering telemedicine solution either directly or based on their hospitals. There are quite a number of telemedicine and mobile health options or as you would call it now, digital health solutions. The health system and doctors are already tapping into it. With the use of any technology, there is what is called the adoption curve. There would be early adopters who will try anything, just to be “first to use”. They are technology enthusiasts and are pushing the frontiers of every innovation. After that comes the mass market, wherein almost everyone is now using the technology and lastly, you have the “laggards”. These are the last people to ditch the use of land lines for mobile phones!! The technology must have been tried and proven beyond reasonable doubt before they adopt it.
I believe we are crossing from the early adapters now to the mass market and the trend would continue with the use of digital health tools in the Nigerian healthcare space.
 
How can Nigeria maximise the benefits of telemedicine?
The use of telemedicine in Nigeria dates back to 2007 after inaugurating projects in two teaching hospitals and six federal medical centres across the country, and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to Nigerians patronising this innovation without having to visit or be seen in the midst of crowds in a hospital. Telemedicine is an advanced way of getting access to healthcare services using digital devices such as the mobile device and computers.
One of the best ways telemedicine can be enjoyed by individuals and government is ensuring all non-emergency cases are addressed using telemedicine. This reduces infection spread and crowd, which in turn helps limit the risk of contracting disease. This method also saves time. Making sure your mobile devices and computers are well equipped to take calls without interruption or lose of focus is another way of getting the best result from telecommunication. A patient can choose a quiet and private room for his or her appointment and ensure all that is needed is available so as to enjoy easy communication.
It is advised that a patient writes down and ask specific questions for clarity, repeat instructions given to be sure he or she understands what the healthcare professional has instructed and takes note of the answers. It will be wrong when a person fails to follow medical instructions and chooses to do what he or she pleases.
You will agree with me that telemedicine is the future of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. This system is a good way to get counselling and it is more convenient for individuals to pay attention to their health and get checked on frequently.
 
What are the cons of eHealth and mHealth that Nigerians must also guard against?
The convenience and ease that mHealth and eHealth (digital health) has provided to improve our lives is overwhelming but there are definitely challenges Some of the cons of eHealth and mHealth are: Not everything can be done through digital health. You would still need to see a healthcare professional at some point; the ecosystem is not well regulated — there is almost no way of knowing that the person attending to you is who he says he is and is qualified to give the necessary advice.
Also, sharing private information and storing vital details can turn out to be risky to the patient. Information of the app users can be tampered with, without the consent of the owner. We have the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) which is trying to deal with this scenario currently.
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